Today Adam of An und fur Sich wrote a post on the perils of blogging, discussing some of the nastiness that has characterized SR/OOO discussions on the internet. While I am an adamant defender of blogging, I do think he raises a number of valid points. First my views about the good of blogging. I started this blog on a lark back in 2006. I had read about blogs in an airplane magazine, and had no idea what they were. When I returned from my trip– over a Spring break — I searched to see if there were any blogs about Lacan or Deleuze. I found them and was immediately hooked. Late one night I created the blog “Larval Subjects”, and wrote my first post on the relationship between Deleuze and Lacan. The blog became one of my most fulfilling modes of intellectual engagement. Perhaps that’s pathetic, but I don’t care.
Why did I start the blog? I started basically because I was in a place of loneliness and despair. While I have good intellectual friends here in Texas, there isn’t much of what you would call an intellectual community here. Not that I’ve found, anyway. Moreover, I was exhausted by academia and publishing and presenting to advance my career. Originally Larval Subjects was anonymous. I went by “Sinthome”. Blogging was a way in which I could form community with other thinkers in a space that explored the sheer joy of ideas. The “larval” of “Larval Subjects” indicated that these ideas were half formed, simply thrown out there. It was a space where I could just think and explore ideas for the sake of thinking and exploring ideas. It was a space free of academic apparatus. Here I could write simply for the sake of writing and thinking without perpetually thinking about publishing and presenting. At a time where I felt as if I had failed academically because I was only a lowly community college professor and had not achieved a tenure track position, this was a way of overcoming my despair and simply taking delight in thinking and discussing.
And it has been great. Larval Subjects has been a sort of public journal like Merleau-Ponty’s Visible and the Invisible or Nietzsche’s Will to Power, where I’ve been able to be honest about what I think at any given moment and where I’ve been able to explore ideas without all the academic apparatus and strategizing for acceptance in various journals. I’ve been able to love thinking again as a result. Through blogging I’ve found community. I have interlocutors that I would have never encountered. Rings of discussion spread throughout the blogosphere like pebbles thrown in a pond. As a result of these encounters, I’ve followed vectors of thought that I would have never followed before. I’ve been able to develop sequences of criticism in this medium that would not have been possible otherwise. This encounter with criticism has enabled me to refine arguments and concepts in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And finally the blogosphere has exposed me to theoretical orientations that I would have never encountered on my own. It’s likely that I would have never encountered SR and OOO without encountering thinkers like Nick Srnicek and Nicole Pepperell.
But there is a dark side to the internet, as Adam suggests. The last twelve months have been particularly trying for me. I have had my stalkers and trolls, but also far more terrifying denizens of the web. I have had people try to blackmail me, threatening my job, using things they read on twitter that had nothing to do with me, demanding that I no longer talk about certain philosophical concepts and ideas. This was a person who had already harassed me for years for reasons that I find baffling.
When Eileen Joy and I founded O-Zone we were harassed with countless emails from a person of the Peircian bent who felt entitled to a position on the editorial board of the journal. This person felt that they were entitled to a position on the editorial board, that there position on the editorial board had been stolen by another person (nevermind that we can have as many editors as we’d like), and sent us dozens of extremely acrimonious and angry emails suggesting that somehow we were trying to undermine their chances at tenure. Somehow they never seemed to register that we had no idea who they were, that they had only commented on this blog a couple times and in ugly ways at that, and that they hadn’t participated in any of the SR/OOO conference, nor had they ever contributed anything to the new materialisms. No, in this person’s mind they somehow deserved to be on that board. They contended that they were the victim of religious persecution, despite the fact that I’ve supported the work of SR/OOO theologians and even reviewed and written prefaces for their works. A couple months ago I received a letter from a “lawyer” threatening a harassment lawsuit from this person, despite the fact that we’d never initiated communication with him on our own and that he’d sent all these harassing emails! This was a tenure track professor!
The other fun thing that happened in the last twelve months was a person who completely lied about their identity. They created a persona and set of credentials that turned out to be completely fabricated, all the way down to their name. When we found out who they really were, it turned out that they’d had charges of sexual harassment, stalking, and fraud on their record, and that they had nothing near the credentials they’d suggested. Dealing with that person was a pretty miserable and heartbreaking experience.
There’s not a day in which I don’t consider shutting down this blog and withdrawing from all online participation. I dread opening my email. I dread opening the comments on this blog. Sometimes I go days without looking at either. I’m shell shocked. These three examples are only one of many. You don’t see the emails I delete, nor the emails I receive. At this point I seldom even respond to emails unless I can actually trace the person who sent it. So what’s my point? My point is that when you talk about the nastiness of the blogosphere you might be ignorant of the context. There was a reason Harman closed his comments. There’s a reason people don’t respond. There are things you don’t see; serious things like threats of blackmail and threatening letters sent by lawyers. Have many of us acted like jack asses and ridiculously in response to these things? Yes! Was there a context that fostered those reactions! Yes! At this point I’m about done with all this. I get beaten, but get told I’m the one with the bad tone. You only ever see the surface of the iceberg.